The World of Jack London
A LETTER FROM DR. VIL M. BYKOV
Leading Jack London scholar in Russia

When we contacted Dr. Vil Bykov, the eminent Russian authority on Jack London, and asked him to trace his origin of interest in Jack London, he sent us the following letter:

Dr. Vil M. Bykov and Becky London

Ever since I was a child, I always liked to read. The short stories of Jack London were my favorites for their dynamic plots. I felt a kinship with his characters who sought out adventure, strove to be individuals and met danger with will power, courage and a code of friendship fit for the best of worlds.

As I matured, I discovered new sides of the author that I admired such as his view of life as struggle and his sympathy for common people including Russians. He always fought on the side of the weak, the sick and the oppressed.

Initially I thought that all of London's novels and stories had been translated into Russian. After all, he was our most popular foreign author and his works were available in all our libraries and bookstores.

After World War II, when I was working on a major in philology at Moscow State University, I chose to study American literature and to analyze the problem of "Jack London as a novelist." My interest focused on The Iron Heel and Martin Eden and other novels of his.

I soon found that not all of his works had been translated into Russian. I myself translated many of Jack London's stories, articles, poems, letters and a novel, The Assassination Bureau, Ltd., and I published them in our books, magazines and newspapers for Soviet readers. They received a warm reception, and I was responsible for adding two new volumes to the 24-volume set of complete works of Jack London in Russian.

My visits to the Valley of The Moon, my postgraduate research at the University of California, Berkeley, the Huntington Library, UCLA, and Oxford University and my meetings with London scholars in the 1950s and 1960s helped me better to understand and present Jack London's life and thought.

The works of Jack London became popular after the October revolution, and they continue to remain popular. He appeals to different generations successfully. I have translated books by American Scholars Irving Stone, Philip Foner and Russ Kingman.

I wished to clear up for Russian readers the problem of Jack London and his daughters. Recently I translated Joan London's Memoirs. I tried to publish her book, but it is difficult now.

Vil M. Bykov

  • Born: Aug. 23, 1925 — Died: Sept. 2, 2007
  • 1932-41 – School.
  • 1943-45 – Soldier in war fronts, hospital.
  • 1945-48 – Technical school.
  • 1948-50 – School.
  • 1950-58 – Moscow State University.
  • 1958-62 – Postgraduate student of Moscow State University.
  • 1958-59 – Postgraduate schools in California & Oxford universities.
  • 1960-93 – Senior scientific worker of Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • 1966 – Defended my dissertation "Jack London – The Novelist."
Dr. Vil Bykov memoirsRead In the Steps of Jack London — Dr. Vil M. Bykov's 41 chapter personal memoirs.
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